Bells tolled, wreaths were laid, memories ran deep, and a roll call of the dead was read out loud today as America paused in grim dignity and quiet grief ten years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Ceremonies from the formal and grand to the intimate were held in honor of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on 9/11, but also to remember the spark that ignited a nation ten years ago and that once again woke “the sleeping giant.”
Houses of worship tolled their bells today while President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush arrived at ground zero in New York this morning.
Pope Benedict also prayed for the victims of 9/11 and appealed to those with grievances to "always reject violence as a solution to problems and resist the temptation to resort to hate."
The nation seemed to stand still Sunday while listening to the thousands of personal stories of the souls lost on that surreal day as a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and a crashed plane in Pennsylvania shocked our nation in horror a decade ago.
The nation collectively came together to pay tribute to the lives lost, but also to somehow grab onto that American resolve that was so evident days after the death and destruction.
For many who gave their testimony today, it seems like yesterday when our nation’s passenger jets were hijacked by al-Qaida, two crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon in Washington and one into a field in Pennsylvania, that was meant to hit the White House head on.
Security forces on top of rooftops today served as a stark reminder that the threat of violence is still ever present in our nation. Law enforcement authorities in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania were on high alert to watch for the "credible but unconfirmed" threat of an al-Qaida plot to attack the United States a decade after their first attempt to ruin our nation.
However, Vice President Joe Biden may have said it best today as he joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Pentagon ceremony held to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“The terrorists who attacked America never imagined that the 3,000 people who were killed ‘would inspire 3 million to put on the uniform, and harden the resolve of 300 million Americans,’” the vice president said.
By recalling not only that day’s horror, but also the heroism it evoked, Biden said “can hopefully give you some comfort and stiffen the resolve of this nation. It’s a basic American instinct to respond in crisis."
“That instinct echoes through the ages from Pearl Harbor to Beirut, from Mogadishu to ground zero, from Flight 93 to right here in the Pentagon.”
That same American instinct, he said, galvanized what he called “an entire new generation of patriots – the 9/11 Generation.”
Milestones such as today’s many commemoration events drew mixed emotions. For some, today was a time for mourning, for others a time for reflection or critique.
Biden reminded Americans that the terrorists who attacked the nation’s high-profile buildings on 9/11 sought to shatter the defining symbol of America’s military might.
“But they failed,” he added. “They failed because they continue to fundamentally misunderstand us, as they misunderstood us on that day. For the true source of American power does not lie within that building.”
Americans draw their strength from “the rich tapestry of our people,” he said.
Biden said his mother used to say that courage lies in every heart.
“Here, on Sept. 11, 2001, at exactly 9:37 a.m., courage was summoned,” he said. “For courage lies deepest in and beats the loudest in the heart of Americans.”
Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship says ten years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden and nearly all of al- Qaida’s leadership are dead, but Americans still do not understand what they represent.
“Once again, we are overlooking the power of ideas: We discount to our peril the influence of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood,” he writes in his column this week.
The 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, resulting in the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of America. Some 2,753 died in New York, 184 in Washington and 40 in Pennsylvania.
Among the dead were 343 firefighters, 37 police officers, two FBI officers and one U.S. secret service agent.
"There should be no doubt: today, America is stronger and al-Qaida is on the path to defeat," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday.
“But as we are showing again this weekend, we remain vigilant. We're doing everything in our power to protect our people. And no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on."